If you get out a microscope, and scour the British papers today, paying very close attention to a small number of very small articles, you might be able to discover that Gordon Brown won an award as World Statesman of the Year in advance of the United Nations General Assembly.
Take the miscroscope down to the body of the copy and you might be able to enjoy the words of former American Secretary of State Henry Kissinger about the ‘vision and dedication’ GB showed in handling the global financial crisis a year ago. ‘His leadership has been essential to our ability to overcome the moment of danger,’ he said.
Even the presence of an A list celeb like Bono at the awards could not elevate the presentation to anywhere near the coverage and praise for Victoria Beckham’s offerings at London Fashion Week.
Now let’s just ask a couple of questions. If David Cameron had won such an award, let’s say for his work in raising awareness on important global issues like … oh, I don’t know, let’s just pretend he has … do you think we might have heard a little more about it?
Or more likely, let’s imagine the award had gone to Barack Obama, Nicolas Sarkozy or Angela Merkel, how might the newsreader tag this news on to an item about the Attorney General’s home help…. ‘As if to make matters worse for the beleaguered Prime Minister, despite his much-vaunted claims to have led the world out of the economic crisis, a major award for statesmanship went not to Brown but to President Sarkozy … Nick, how disappointed will Downing Street be that this award went to the French President?’
When the only news the media will report is what they deem to be bad news for GB and the government, they cannot begin to claim they are fulfilling their responsibilities in a democracy. It would also be quite nice to read a piece by one of these political and economic experts explaining how the world economy might have panned out had people followed Cameron’s suggestions this time last year.
Another example … the Tories’ recent scam pretending that documents published at the time of the Budget contained information which the government had tried to conceal. Journalists fell over themselves in falling for the spin, but once it was clear that spin was all that it was, the story went away. Had that been about Labour under Neil Kinnock, John Smith, TB or GB, it would still be leading the news.
The Liberal Democrats are likely to get their day leading one or two bulletins today, as leader Nick Clegg makes his main speech to the conference. It is hard to decide whether he will consider the week to have gone well. He has done quite well on the profile front, made one or two interesting policy noises, but the general impression of the past few days has been one of lack of clarity about political strategy and policy direction, and lack of basic political groundwork. Also, this might be seen as the week when the Party itself started to chip away at the reputation enjoyed by Treasury spokesman Vince Cable.
You hear talk fairly often among Libs about Cable’s high-handedness and his belief that he is always right. In truth he talks some sense, and quite a lot of nonsense, and what has emerged this week is that is not just my view, but a view shared by his colleagues.
So all a bit of a mess really. Or is it? I do not imagine this was deliberate but in a way what Clegg’s mismanagement of the week has allowed is for Lib Dems to carry on pretending to be one thing in one place, another thing in another. It has defined their approach to campaigning for years and I have seen little this week to suggest it might change in favour of a clear and principled strategy.